Skinny Jeans and Poor Service

Posted by Jill Chivers in My Story

Hello dear reader and welcome to a glorious winter Friday. Here we are at blog #61. This week, my friend Ange was telling me about a shopping experience she had. It boggled my brain so much, I asked her if I could tell you about it. “Sure”, she said. So here it is.

Ange wanted a pair of jeans. Not just any pair of jeans, but jeans with particular style elements. Ange is a beautiful 29 year old with two gorgeous little boys and an adoring husband (with a broken foot, but that’s another story). Ange knows a bit about her style – she likes black, she likes bold colours, she knows a lot about make-up. And she knows what looks good on her body and, possibly more importantly, what does not.

One sunny day last week, Ange went jeans shopping. She chose a national jeans store, thinking that they would not only stock a large range of jeans, but that their staff would be knowledgeable. About jeans.

Wrong. On both counts.

Here is what Ange was looking for:

  1. jeans were to cover and slim her hip/thigh area. I’d guess that 4.7 women out of 5 are looking for this particular design feature, so it didn’t seem unreasonable to imagine that would be a tick! no problem, madam, would you like that in dark, stone, or ripped?
  2. jeans were to lengthen and slim the leg. Few of us actually resemble in any physical way the models we see sporting the jeans we end up buying. Those models are all 7ft tall (everyone knows that, right?). So this also seemed like a design feature that was not altogether unexpected
  3. jeans were not to gape at the back. Few women would enter a jeans store and say “well, I don’t care what colour or style they are. But they absolutely positively must gape at the back so that my underwear is visible from the cab of any passing 18-wheeler, ok?”. Another check in the box of Reasonable Request
  4. jeans were to be dark denim. As you can now get jeans in colours from Prussian blue to sand-blasted to ‘destroyed’ denim and silver jeans. Dark denim seemed a fairly easy-to-find quality in a jean
  5. jeans were to have some shaping quality to them. This is one of the advances in fabric and garment construction that those of us with less than stick-like figures have benefited from. What you see on the outside may be a virtual magic trick made possible by the shaped panels inside the garment.
  6. jeans were to be in stretch fabric. Since we’ve all been wearing Lycra-infused garments since Brooke Shields first exhorted us to not let anything come between us and our CKs, this didn’t seem unreasonable to request either

Ok, I’m sure you’ve got the picture. Ange was fairly specific in what she wanted. But also not an unreasonable set of design requirements. I have 3 pair of jeans (out of a total of 14 pair) that fit those exact specifications. Two of them are from Target, I might mention.

The sales person “assisting” Ange brought out a pair of jeans that closely resemble those in the photo accompanying this article. No exaggeration. Promise.

Apart from the dark denim bit (requirement #4), they possessed none of the design features Ange asked for.

“They look great!”. What happened next is even more astonishing. Ange is standing there, looking like she’s been poured into these jeans, and the sales person exclaims “oh, they look great on you!”. At this point, Ange began to wonder if this young woman didn’t have some kind of visual impairment. There was no possible way that the words “great” and “you” could be applied to the vision of Ange in those jeans.

When Ange protested that she didn’t feel good, or didn’t feel she looked good, the response was “oh, well you could wear a longer top, and a little ankle boot” (yes, the jeans were wrong from both ends – with muffin top and cankles appearing as if from thin air. Doing wonders for Ange’s self esteem, into the bargain).

Ange responded that she didn’t want to have to adjust her entire wardrobe to be able to make the jeans “work” (although she felt that nothing short of an amputation was likely to make that happen in a hurry).

Less confidence in sales staff. Ange walked out of the store jeans-less. She told me that the entire experience left her less confident in sales staff in general. “Even if I do need help, when I walk into a store and someone asks if they can help, I say no. Because I don’t trust their advice”. How sad is that?

And the answer is… behind door number 3 of course! The answers are obvious. Here’s a few I made up just now:

  • sales staff need to be knowledgeable. And not just about the product their store is selling, but about their customers. If you are selling clothing to real human beings, you need to know a bit about the human body shapes that exist. And what looks good on the various human body shapes. And that’s not even getting into colour or personality dressing. And here’s a bonus free tip: skinny hipster jeans do not look good on real curvy women of any height (and I’m not talking ‘Hollywood curvy’ there).
  • sales staff need to be focused on the customer, not on selling stock off the floor. This is sheer heresy to some retailers, I know. Ange said that when she was working in retail, they had the 7 Steps to a Sale, from “greet the customer” through to ringing up the sale. The focus was on selling the product, not on helping the customer. And YES, of course they should be the same thing. But how many times have you walked out of a store and wondered if they even saw you, let alone were focused on helping you? (If you can get staff under 21 off their hand-held electronic devices long enough to even notice that you’ve entered the store, you’re doing well).
  • sales staff need to have the judgement and communication skills to provide honest input to customers. If you are selling clothing to real human beings, you need to be able to ascertain (in your best judgement) if the item is flattering to that person. Then you need to be able to express that viewpoint with diplomacy and courtesy. If everything “looks great on you!”, then you know the sales person has no idea and their comments are on automatic loop.
  • sales staff need to be able to offer options to customers. If you are selling clothing to real human beings, you need to not only be able to provide an opinion on how flattering the current garment is on them, but offer them options if it’s not. This usually requires a brain switched to the ON position.
  • sales staff need to do all this so that the customer walks out happy. And does not come back, unhappy and having complained to as many people as will listen, to return the item. A happy customer will not only tell lots of people about their experience, but they will become a loyal customer.

Now if you walked into a store and were assisted by a sales team member like that, wouldn’t that be a treat? Wouldn’t you be telling anyone who’d listen long enough all about it? Wouldn’t you become a loyal customer? I sure would. Well, if I were still shopping, which I’m not right now. Naturally.

So, Ange is still looking for a pair of jeans. If only she were my size, she could have a pair of mine. Right?

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